The Carillon - ONLINE EDITION
By: Grant Burr
Posted: 10/14/2017 7:30 PM
Some 10 years ago, the fundraising efforts for a personal care home project in Sprague centred around a theme inspired by the story, The Little Engine That Could.
A decade later and it seems that project, aimed to create a 20-bed personal care home in the community, is facing more of an uphill battle than ever.
The Progressive Conservatives new approach to personal care home funding, offering $133,000 per bed, is a tough pill to swallow for those in the small RM of Piney.
"We’ve been at this game longer than Niverville and Rest Haven and we keep waiting and waiting," laments Paul Campbell.
Niverville opened a new personal care home in 2013 and last month Steinbach’s Rest Haven personal care home was approved for a major expansion.
Campbell, a Middlebro resident and former South Eastman Health board chair, is well-versed in the history of the Sprague project and its need an isolated region of the Southeast.
A main frustration for him and others like Sprague’s Elsa Laing, who has championed community fundraising for many years, is that this project was brought to the community by Manitoba Health and RHA, not the other way around.
"There’s a real need down here and it has been here for 20 years," she said.
The health authority, in 2004, thought it had a model that could work in the serving the needs of seniors in a smaller community and Sprague was seen as suitable for such a pilot.
An inordinately large elderly population and low socio-economic statistics, made the project an important one too.
Community housing for seniors, through Manitoba Housing, was realised in 2012 and has been full since the day it opened, the pair note. The remaining pieces of that continuum of senior citizen care remain unfulfilled.
"What’s there demonstrates in spades that the need really exists," Campbell said.
A $400,000 commitment remains on the books of the RM of Piney. East Borderland Community Housing has a 4.4 acre parcel of land next to the community housing that be used for development, along with a $400,000 contribution of its own. All that, they say, constitutes enough to fulfill the 10 percent community contribution, required by the previous government.
Also, importantly, the project has a report penned by the health authority, which made the case that staffing of the facility could be achieved by drawing support from health care services in Vita.
That document, completed in April 15, 2016, presented the case for an "elder care centre" model which had been successfully implemented in other countries.
The provincial election, four days later on April 19, changed government and ultimately changed the health funding formula, but it has not changed the needs that exist in Piney.
"This need just doesn’t go away. We have real needs down here like all of the Southern Health community," Campbell said.
Exceptions need to be made for smaller communities they argue. Campbell notes that projects in remote areas aren’t able to achieve the efficiencies that can be made to happen in places like Steinbach or Niverville. Instead, projects in more remote areas can expect to cost more, not less.
"Changing the rules like that…there’s just no fairness in this," he said.
"For a community like ours, this is the worst thing that can happen."
Southern Health board chair Abe Bergen says he expects an announcement from the province “this fall” regarding long-gestating plans for a 140-bed expansion to Steinbach’s Rest Haven personal care home.
“At the end of the day, we’re waiting for an announcement, ...
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